I remember the day my son took his first steps. I was sitting on the floor in our family room across from my then mother-in-law as we passed a helium balloon back and forth. Enamored by the balloon and determined to take hold of it, my son promptly pushed himself up on his feet and attempted to walk toward the latex sphere. Fear of falling was not even a remote option because he had his eye on the prize of procuring the balloon. Then, without realizing he was taking, literally, one of the first fundamental steps of his life, he began to master walking. This was the genesis of many wonderful milestones my son and I would share.
I recently had that transformational moment parents of young adults inevitably go through. That moment when you realize they’ve crossed the threshold into adulthood and are now the captains of their destiny. It’s an emotionally complicated and bittersweet stage in life. A few weeks ago, Stephen and I were sitting out on our patio. This has become our new family time. It’s a time I’ve come to cherish at the end of each day. We have dinner and download and regale the day to other. As my son was conversing, I realized that sitting before me was no longer the little boy with skinned knees and a love for all things Legos and Thomas the Tank Engine, but rather the man I had so earnestly wanted to raise. He had recently started driving and was working three summer internships in addition to freelancing as a sound engineer on independent films. He was earning and managing his own money, taking meetings with producers, directing and producing his own movies, dealing with the hellish nightmare that is LA traffic and still found time to make his bed every day. All very grown up responsibilities and I could not be more proud of him.
From the very second I knew I was going to have a baby until this moment, I have had my arms around him; guiding, loving, teaching, protecting and preparing him for his future. In what seemed like a cruel flash of time, the day has come when I have to unlock my hold around him and let him stand on his own. Much like the day he took his first steps and I stood behind him as he wobbled across the room, ready to catch him should he fall, only to watch with joy as he mastered his stride. I now stand here as I watch with elation my son not just take his first steps into adulthood, but propel at lightning speed into it.
The tables have now turned and I’m taking my first steps. My first steps in letting go. My first steps as the parent of an adult. My first steps in moving forward with my life. It’s time for me to do more grown up things. To travel more, learn a new language, settle down with an amazingly wonderful guy and be more adventurous, spontaneous and maybe even a little daring. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve wobbled a bit, but I too am mastering my stride. It’s painfully hard not to feel a loss of purpose as I navigate this emotional but necessary transition and grapple with feeling my role in his life slowly diminishing as he has grown and flown.
As I now step back and watch my son thrust toward his future, I’m comforted in knowing I’ve more than equipped him for the journey. And much like I did at his age, he’ll look back from time to time for reassurance and support, which I’ll gladly and gently provide, only to have him then turn and steady his gaze ahead toward his destiny. In the meantime, my arms have been opened to release him but, like any good mama, they are always here ready and waiting to hug him.